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Rose´ Throughout the Year

By W Peter Hoyne

The popularity of rose´ continues to surge in the U.S. as it may well become the fashionable beverage of choice throughout the year. Americans have an unquenchable thirst for rose´ with young consumers sharing the greatest interest in these visual beauties. It has been referred to as the “Champagne of Millennials.” Although wine sales in restaurants have declined since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, taking up the slack have been increases in retail and online purchases as people choose to dine in at home. 

France remains the largest producer of rose´ with those from Provence taking the lead within the US market. According to Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Provence (CIVP), the US has become the second largest rose´ market in the world with a 45% increase in rose´ consumption occurring over 10 years. In 2019, premium Provencal rose´ accounted for 38% of sales. After France, the largest producers are Spain, the US and Italy.

Rich in history and viticulture, Provence is the oldest winemaking region in France dating back to 600 BC when the Greeks settled in Marseilles and introduced grape growing. The Romans followed in 200 BC cultivating vineyards throughout Europe while the monasteries and abbeys produced wine for sacramental purposes during the 5th through 12th century AD.

Many consider Provence to be a small geographic area in the southeast of France. In reality, Provence is quite large and nearly 150 miles wide.  It resides in close proximity to the Mediterranean coastline in the south with mountainous terrain to the north.  Bordered by the Rhone River to the west and Nice to the east, Provence benefits from abundant sunshine, the moderating temperature influence of the sea and the cooling mistral winds from the north. There are over 600 producers spread across 9 AOC appellations. The largest are Côtes de Provence, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence and Coteaux Varois en Provence. Côtes de Provence accounts for 75% of the total wine production in Provence with 89% being rose´. Each appellation has its own unique personality and characteristics. The entire region is adept in producing floral whites and complex reds, yet rose´ is the financial backbone of the region.

Rose´ has been misunderstood for decades by watermelon pink wines that are tainted with sweetness, yet 56% of all rose´ are dry. The primary grape varieties of Provencal Rose´ are Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvedre and Tibouren. These grapes are ideally suited for the varied soils of limestone, schist and clay. 

Most commonly rose´ is created using the maceration or saignée method. With maceration, whole dark berries are gently pressed and the skins are left in contact with the juice only for a short period of time, imparting a pale salmon color. In the saignée process, a French term for “to bleed”, a rose´ is produced as a byproduct of making a red wine. After dark skinned grapes are crushed, a small amount of the concentrated red wine juice is bled off from the tank. It is then fermented separately creating a rose´ that has a darker color with a bold flavor profile.  

There are stylistic differences in the aromas and complexity of rose´. In its purest form, rose´ from Provence will reveal pale shades of peach skin infused with dried floral aromas. Red currants, passion fruit, citron and orange zest are integrated into the dry flavor profile. In their youth rose´ can have an understated elegance, but over time this will evolve into deep spicy undertones. The finish is delicate with a touch of crispness in the background.  After tasting Provencal rose´ that dated back 20 vintages, I found that contrary to traditional wisdom, these wines gain in complexity over time and can be a true cerebral experience.

Dominating the news, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, John Legend, John Bon Jovi along with a host of other celebrities have released their own French rose´ and extolled the virtues and charm of this beverage. One notable producer in Provence who has been influential in bringing recognition to the region is Sacha Lichine of Chateau D’Esclans. A native of Bordeaux and educated in the US, Lichine worked at his family’s Margaux estates of Chateau Prieurie Lichine and Chateau Lascombes. He followed many avenues in the wine industry, owning his own negociant business. Looking for a new direction, he acquired Chateau D’Esclans in 2006. With the assistance of Patrick Léon, former winemaker at Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Lichine began crafting a portfolio of premium rose´ from the Cote de Provence. His Whispering Angel Rosé has become the top Provencal rosé in the US market and around the world. LVMH acquired a majority share of the property in 2019.

Domestic rose´ has also made its mark and has a very captive audience. Early on there was an identity crisis between dry rose´ and white Zinfandel. In the 1970’s, Bob Trinchero of Sutter Home Winery used a saignée method with his red Zinfandel.  Inadvertently yet successfully, he created a semisweet rosé naming it White Zinfandel. This era has been fast forwarded to a time when the production of premium dry rosé in the US is on the rise and in style. Wineries in the US have more discretion as to what grapes they will use to produce a rosé such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese etc. Rose´ has evolved into a dry, refreshing alternative that can be consumed at any time during the year!

Our craving for rose´ is not a whimsical trend, but instead a declaration of our changing lifestyles and interest in straightforward and healthy foods. According to Seven Fifty Daily rosé has an equal demographic appeal with men and women. What is most attractive about rose´ is its affinity to pair well with almost any cuisine. Rosé has gone beyond casual conversations and outdoor summer entertaining to becoming a serious contender for gastronomic dining. While it may be ideally suited to accompany a variety of fresh fish, vegetable and Mediterranean preparations, it can also hold its own against the brazen flavors of grilled meats and herb flavored preparations. Our loyalty toward rose´ will continue to accelerate as it becomes more than a diversion and evolves into an integral part of our modern lifestyle.

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